Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis

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White Rhinoceros - Ceratotherium simum | Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis


Afrikaans Swartrenoster Zulu uBhejane  Tswana Tshukudu
Shona Chipenbere Venda Thema
R.W. Min 24" Max 47"
S.C.I Min 56" Max 89" Measurement Method 2

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F 20cm
H 17cm


12 cm
Deposited in middens
Contains undigested twigs

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

Sadly born without a sense of humor, the Black Rhino is always in a bad mood. The front horn has a rounded base whereas the base of the front horn of White rhinoceros forma a straight line. The upper lip is triangular while the lips of the  White rhinoceros is square and wide. The head is carried high and is short relative to the neck whereas the head is long relative to neck and carried low in White rhinoceros. The ears are narrower in White rhinoceros.  There is no distinct hump on the shoulders. In high rainfall areas the flanks are marked by dark bloody, patches caused by parasitic worms which does not occur in the White rhinoceros.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males have a thick fold of skin running down between the backs of the hind legs. Horns tend to be longer and thinner in cows. Females have a pair of nipples between their hind legs and often have a calf at foot.

Habitat and Distribution

Bush with permanent water. Also occurs under arid conditions.


Eats leaves, shoots and fruit. Twigs of up to 1 cm thick are grasped with the upper lip and bitten off a 45 angle. Feeding height is 0.5-1.2 m but may pull down branches with the front horn to get at high leaves.


A single calf weighing 40kg is born at any time of year after gestation of 15 months. Calves can move with the mothers after three hours, but may be left hidden in cover for the first week. Calves start browsing after a few weeks and is weaned at about 12 months, sometimes as late as 19 months. They stay with the mothers until 2-4 years of age when the next calf is born. Females first calve at 6-12 years and males mature at 8 years. Potential lifespan is 30-40 years. Calves are born in heavy cover, and stay hidden for up to a week. They walk behind their mothers whereas White rhinoceros calves walk in front of the mother but may run in front when running. Calves are sometimes killed by lions and spotted hyenas.

Behavior and Habits

Active for half of the day and most of the night, lying in the shade at the hottest time of day. They drink water in the afternoons and will dig for water when surface water disappears. Females leave their calves in the undergrowth when they come to drink avoid predators. They enjoy wallowing in water and mud to cool down and kill. They love rubbing on rocks, trees and termite mounds and some "scratchpoles" are polished with age and use. 

They are usually solitary unless it is a female with calf or a male courting females. They may form small but temporary groups. Home ranges may cover 500 sq km in arid areas and 4-7 sq km in areas with good food. Both sexes use middens and enthusiastically kick the dung around whereas the female White rhinoceros does not kick the dung in the midden. White rhinoceroses and Black rhinoceroses may share the same midden. Only mature bulls spray urine onto bushes. The sense of sight is not good but smell and hearing are very sensitive. They are habitually cantankerous and especially Black rhinoceros females with calves are extremely dangerous.


Emits an explosive snort when charging. Calves also make a mewing sound.

Dung and Field sign

Neatly pruned bushes with twigs trimmed off at 45. Distinguishable from White Rhinoceros track by lack of a "W" (for white rhino) formed by back of spoor. Dung contains undigested twigs with ends cut at 45. Middens and mud smears on trees, termite mounds and rocks; polished rubbing spots and scratch poles.

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